According to the Nei Ching, a 2,000 year old Chinese medical classic text, there are some precepts of health and aging that are still very important in this day and age. The normal life span for humans is over 100 years. There are documented life spans of Taoist monks that have lived in good health to well over 150 years old!
In the Nei Ching, there is a dialogue between the Yellow Emperor and an old Taoist teacher named Chi-po. "Why does medicine exist?", asks the Yellow Emperor, "... because people have severed themselves from their roots (the Tao)", answers Chi-po.
The reconnection between the individual and their "roots" (spirituality) is a very important aspect in the maintaining of youthfulness, and is thereby inherent in the basic foundation of TOM. Understanding the root cause and quality of one's own longevity can slow the aging process and rejuvenate the body, as thoughts can create reality. Knowing with certainty that we are an ageless body is the basis for creating high level wellness in the modern world. Longevity, however, is more than just belief.
For thousands of years the Taoist have written about the importance of health and longevity. In the Taoist tradition, which forms the foundation of TOM, there are Three Treasures that constitute our life and health. These are known as Jing (Essence), Qi (vitality) and Shen (Spirit). The ultimate goal of TOM is to cultivate, balance and expand the Three Treasures for optimal health and longevity.
Jing is the first Treasure and is translated as "Regenerative Essence," or simply as "Essence." It is the refined energy of the body. Jing, which is a blend of Yin and Yang energy, is stored in the Kidneys. It provides the foundation for all physiological activity and is the "root" of our vitality. It provides the reserves required to adapt to all the various stresses encountered in life.
Jing is closely associated with our genetic potential, or DNA, as well as with the aging process. It is associated with the hormones of the reproductive and adrenal glands, and is the vital essence concentrated in the sperm and ova.
Jing is essential to life, and when it runs low our life force is severely diminished. The quantity of Jing determines both our life span and the ultimate vitality of our life. When Jing is strong, vitality and youthfulness remain. While a loss of Jing will result in physical and mental degeneration and a shortening of one's life.
Jing is burned up in the body by life itself, but it is most especially depleted by the following factors:
acute and chronic stress
chronic pain or illness
sexual excess (especially in men)
excessive menstrual patterns
pregnancy and childbirth
When Jing is depleted below a level required to survive, we die. Eventually everyone runs out of Jing, and thus everyone dies (at least physically).
Qi is the second Treasure. Qi corresponds broadly to energy and every phenonemon in the Universe is a manifestation of Qi. When Qi is condensed it can give rise to matter, and when it is dispersed, it gives rise to energy. Qi is the energy that creates our vitality. It is the activity of Yin and Yang, the two moving and opposing forces of the universe. The nature of Qi is to move.
There are two types of Qi: Prenatal Qi and Postnatal Qi. Prenatal Qi, also referred to as Congential Qi, is inherited from our parents at birth and is stored in the Kidneys. It is important in growth and development. This Qi can be used up during the life cycle unless supplemented by good nutrition, a healthy life style, and moderate amounts of sex. Tai Chi, Qigong, yoga and meditation can also enhance Prenatal Qi and result in a long, healthy life. Postnatal Qi is produced primarily by the Spleen, Stomach and Lungs, and is derived from food and air.
Qi takes various forms in the body fulfilling variety of functions. Every organ has it own Qi. However, Qi has several basic functions including:
it is the source of harmonious transformation in the body -transforming food, water and air into blood, Qi, tears, sweat, urine and other body fluids and substances,
it is the source of all movement - it circulates all over the the body, transporting blood, fluids and vital nutrients and provides the dynamic motive force to all physiological activity of all the organs,
it holds the blood within the blood vessels and contains the body fluids within their proper compartments,
it raises the organs and holds them in their proper place, thus preventing prolapse of the organs,
it protects the body against pathological factors - internally and externally,
it warms the body,
Several factors contribute to the depletion of our Prenatal Qi and cause us to become less efficient at making and utilizing Postnatal Qi, which results in diminished vitality and accelerated aging:
living a life of excess
excessive stress and worry
drug or alcohol abuse
Shen is the third Treasure. It is similar to the English meaning of the words "Mind" and "Spirit". Shen is the spiritual radiance of a human being and is the ultimate and most refined level of Qi. It presides over the emotions and manifests non-discriminating, non-judgemental awareness. Shen is expressed as love, compassion, kindness, generosity, acceptance, forgiveness and tolerance.
Shen manifests as our intelligence and wisdom; it is our ability to see all sides of all issues, our ability to rise above the world of right and wrong, good and bad, yours and mine, high and low, etc.
Shen is developed by the combination of Jing and Qi. When these two treasures are in balance, the mind is strong, the spirit is great, the emotions are under control, and the body is strong and healthy. But it is very difficult to expect a sound mind to be cultivated without sound Jing and Qi.
When we develop Jing, we get a large amount of Qi automatically. When we have a large amount of Qi, we will also have strong Shen, and we are healthy, vital and radiant.